Rachel Goldie, of Danby Wiske, near Northallerton, took on what has proved to be a unique appointment as chair of the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs in February. Rachel’s position is unique in two respects, as it was a position her father, Alan, held 25 years ago and, due to the pandemic, she became the first chair to take up office virtually.
Rachel said the biggest challenge the Young Farmers movement faces presently, coming out of the pandemic restrictions, is rounding up the membership and getting the machine running again, with club meetings back underway.
“I did have concerns that clubs around here weren’t doing a lot virtually. Other counties seemed to have been using online meeting places like Zoom more readily. Maybe across Yorkshire, which is still largely a farming group, those who would normally be involved have found other things to do on their farm, or perhaps their internet connection isn’t as good as elsewhere.
“We have tried so hard to run as much as we can on screen and even this past week we have been judging the public speaking competitions virtually. We know that running what we can has helped with members’ mental health.
“I can’t say I blame those for not taking up the virtual aspects of YFC because it is hard going if you’re working from home all day and often working virtually.
“It is totally understandable that you then don’t want to spend a couple of hours on a night as too much screen time isn’t good for your health.
“There is an element of concern that members will maybe have thought they have lived without YFC activities for 18 months so why go back. I hope that everyone will come back and at national level we have been looking at restart packs and funding for development training, particularly in skillsets for club secretary training.
“I am now starting to see clubs that had been doing nothing virtually and were perhaps going to wait until September before they started again now getting activities back underway. I did fear they might lose more members by waiting.”
Rachel said Young Farmers Club membership is way down in Yorkshire from its pre-pandemic figure of around 1,500.
“Everyone knows that it has been a completely unusual period and I hope that we can somehow minimise the closure of clubs. There have always been closures and mergers with neighbouring clubs. If a club cannot operate a structured meeting it would still be good to see a return to the social side by perhaps a game of rounders or a walk just to get things going again. I think it’s really vital that they just meet up.”
Rachel’s day job is as a homeless prevention worker, which entails working with young people aged 16-25 in the Harrogate area, and as such she is fully aware of the hoops that have to be jumped through, the extra paperwork or box ticking required, to help people. She said the Young Farmers movement also requires a lot of hoop jumping.
“The whole world is changing and the YFC movement is no different. Everyone is moving with the times and trying to safeguard those involved, as well as providing such as gender equality.
“We’ve traditionally run male and female competitions but now we are looking at age categories more, so we are running Under 16 or Under 18 competitions, but you can’t please everyone.
“Data protection and social media are other challenges. It’s all getting a lot harder to work with. We don’t encourage members to put their contact numbers on posters.
“When sports competitions are run we have to look at providing changing rooms in a different way. We have lesbian and gay members in the Yorkshire and National YFC movement and they are all very much accepted as are those who are transgender.”
Rachel said she sees her role as national chair as a similar goal to her day job.
“I like helping people, working particularly with young people and making a difference to their lives. I enjoy seeing people happy and achieving their potential. I never wanted a full-time career in farming but I will always help out here on my parents’ farm at Manor House Farm where we have a dairy herd of 200, as I am this week, and at my fiancé Robert Nelson’s family farm in Skelding.
“We have to get the YFC movement’s machine going again and get everyone working together. That’s my goal for Young Farmers.”